Teens take flying class at MTU

HOUGHTON – Ten teenagers are getting a taste of life in the skies through Michigan Technological University’s Summer Youth Program.

The weeklong classes include learning how to read instruments and a session in a flight simulator. Jack Hartman of the Civil Air Patrol said this is the fifth year he can recall the classes have gone on.

“This is a good chance for the kids to learn a lot about aviation,” he said. “I taught them everything I know.”

Thursday, they were out at Houghton County Memorial Airport piloting planes. The students, who range in age from 14 to 16, went up for 15-minute flights accompanied by instructors from the Civil Air Patrol or the Experimental Aircraft Association.

“It was the same as the simulator we did, so that was familiar,” said

Erika Binroth, 14, of Jackson, Mich., who would like to become a shuttle pilot. “But it was interesting dealing with actual wind conditions.”

Alec Fisher, 14, of Houghton, plans to become an Air Force pilot.

“I’ve always liked playing the flight simulators,” he said. “I’m really interested in the physics of it, all the flaps and ailerons.”

The class even attracted people beyond the Midwest, including Maxwell Weil, 15, of Richland, Wash., His father, an MTU grad, lives in Toledo, Ohio.

Weil had gotten to pilot a plane in Richland once before. Thursday, he got to handle most of the flight, including the landing.

“It’s really exciting, and it’s something different from being on the ground,” said Weil, who hopes to go into the Air Force. “There’s so much more to see, to do. It’s really beautiful up there. It’s amazing.”

While others had made flights before, it was the first time piloting a plane for Paige Rios of Appleton, Wis. Rios, who skates at MTU, found out about the program while visiting the campus.

“It was fun,” she said. “There was turbulence, but (my instructor) trusted me to fly the plane almost the entire time. It was fun to be up in the air, even though there were bumps. It was fun to know what a pilot goes through.”

Rios would like to go into the Air Force, either as a pilot or an electrical engineer.

“I just like the feeling of being up in the air,” she said. “It’s a totally different experience. I think you feel more free in the air, and I think there’s more to learn, and more to experience.”

The students will wrap up today with a visit to MTU’s aeronautics department and a final session in the flight simulator. Students made their calculations for flight path, which goes from the Houghton County Memorial Airport to Sawyer International Airport in Marquette, over to Ontonagon, then back up to Houghton.

“Their courses were all within one degree (of accuracy), which I was proud of,” Hartman said.